According to a new study, social media platform Twitter can be bad news for your relationship. In an online survey of 581 Twitter users, researchers found that frequent Twitter use can lead to conflict in a couple’s relationship, which could possibly lead to infidelity or a breakup.
Researchers wrote a 20-question survey about Twitter’s effect on relationships, which they tweeted out to over 3.4 million users. The study garnered 581 participants. Participants were found to average 52 minutes of Twitter use a day, 5 days a week.
“There’s been growing literature that these social networking sites may directly impair communications between partners, and that can lead to increasing jealousy,” said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. “You’re spending a lot of time on the internet, and that’s taking away from time with your partner.”
The study, which was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, found that high amounts of Twitter use could be correlated with turmoil within relationships; couples could be more likely to get into arguments about Twitter use or content, and the conflict occurred even if the couple had been in a long-term relationship or marriage.
Krakower offers a few theories as to why the conflict occurs. He suggests Twitter use could distract them from their partner and their relationship. “People become too engulfed in what they’re doing, and that takes away from their other activities,” he said.
He also notes that Twitter could cause conflict because of couples oversharing. “You’re able to see everything they’re doing,” he said. “Maybe you will jump to conclusions too quickly before knowing all the information, and that increases jealousy.”
However, others theorize that Twitter does not cause relationship problems, rather, Twitter-related conflict highlights preexisting relationship problems.
“I don’t think social media use causes relationships to break up,” said Paul Hokemeyer, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in New York City. “I think a lack of trust causes relationships to break up, and social media sites are a place where this lack of trust can be quantified.”
Hokemeyer argues that conflict could arise over any variety of hobbies, including social media use, and therefore is not the true source of the conflict. “It’s not the Twitter that’s causing the problem with the relationship,” he added. “The Twitter becomes a distraction from the real issue, so it’s important to drill down and get to the underlying problems.”
The study authors added that relationship conflict was reduced when couples shared a Twitter account. Krakower also suggests that, if a couple is worried that Twitter is causing conflict, they could place a time restriction on Twitter use.
“Say, ‘I’m only going to be on this site for a certain amount of time,’ and involve your partner in that process so they agree with what’s happening,” Krakower said. He adds that a person may also need to limit how much time they spend viewing their partner’s social media accounts. “If you find you’re delving too far into the other person’s stuff, then you have to tell yourself to stop.”